The Loaded Dice Table Talks II

Oct 30th, 2017 by Riel Richard


Things are poised to change. Less than two years ago, I was very much of the belief that Necromunda had found its rightful home among the community of players and hobbyists that seemed to hold it most dear. Shelved until further notice seems to be the more accurate declaration of its status, as the game is now having its core system reflected in Games Workshop's newly released Shadow Wars: Armageddon - with even further pending rumours of an actual Necromunda rerelease somewhere on the horizon. With this modernization of the company's previous approach to a tabletop skirmish game, Shadow Wars showcases the marriage of role playing and wargaming elements - a reflection of the roots of Warhammer 40,000's rules system during the run of its second edition - and highlights some of the company's highest achievements in game design from their offerings in the early 1990's. With mixed emotions being expressed on the repackaging of the classic Necromunda system into a game looking to serve the entire breadth of scope of the 40K universe, Necromunda is returning as a discussion topic with tabletop gamers for whom it was not likely much of a topic before.

These gamers make up the majority of the tabletop hobby scene, but it would be outright criminal to suggest that it represented the entirety. A brash and redundant statement to be made here on YakTribe, I know, as the community activity surrounding the game system seems to be getting stronger and stronger. But being the meeting spot that it is, YakTribe in recent times has seen an influx in activity across all mediums of the hobby. A game that - at least until this recent launch of a reboot - has had so much of its formative identity rooted in nostalgia, the Necromunda community seems defined by a respect for the historied creation of the game while simultaneously emboldened by an energetic drive to have the game system mature and grow alongside its fanbase. The game's roots, centred around collecting small factions of miniatures and following them through flowing and often turbulent campaign arcs, puts the growth of the characters directly in the hands of the game's players.

A Goliath gang with the jump on Mad Donna wisely brings a Bounty Hunter for support... no matter... she's faced worse. credit @cardyfreak

There is a sense of ownership to it all, where one can't help but lose themselves in the adventures of their characters as they gain experience and grow into completely different underhivers altogether. And in following the exploits of one's gangs, fighting in the industrial and urban decay of a societal underbelly experiencing a constant reclamation from the toxic refuse beneath it, it is ultimately the setting that becomes the the most central character of the whole story. And while Shadow Wars: Armageddon attempts to repackage the setting to reflect the wrought and derelict nature of underhives throughout the vast spans of the entire 40K universe, it is from the sumps of Necromunda that these settings are built.

It is an absolutely commendable basis for a tabletop game system, that a miniatures collection can focus on populating the vast and abandoned landscape within which gangs of ten or twelve characters strive to make their own claims to glory. As a gang survives further into a campaign fought out across the densely covered catacombs of twisting platforms, towers, walkways, and derelict structures, the hobbying aspects of Necromunda are propelled in unison with the actual playing of games. And with the original support of the system including a great emphasis on having ones hand at building a whole host of structures and terrain pieces from cleverly disguised house hold items or bits of refuse, the entire package presents a hobby game that has a very lasting shelf life for repeat play with a never ending opportunity to continue the creative process of designing, making, and painting ones own terrain and even miniatures without becoming some financial runaway and unfeasible endeavour. The whole layout leads to some exceptionally creative interpretations of what the underhive would be, and it really exemplifies how the scope of the game's setting can be applied to such a variable imagining of such a dystopian world.

And so in its present form, Necromunda has grown from formative ideas on how the setting and action that unravels upon it should look, to how possible individual takes on the canon could look. From the physical design and feel of our miniatures, to how they are used to play out games, and even how the game is shared throughout the hobby community, Necromunda will be headed into conversations alongside the new rerelease from Games Workshop on a modern surge of popularity. And while again it is uncertain what this new breed of the game might bring as far as lasting support and popularity, it can only fuel processes for the dedicated fan base. From finding terrain building ideas and new uses for common items, to making customized miniatures and bits to really individualize characters and gangs, and even to sharing the game with others and growing the community, the current culture surrounding Necromunda is certainly a juxtaposition of the wrought and decaying thematic setting that it exists within. These pillars of the hobby, captured so wonderfully in Necromunda's game design, have been exemplified by the game's player base since its introduction in the mid-90's, and are what truly stoke the passion and enthusiasm for the system.

An unsuspected Bounty Hunter appears from the shadows above and sends a group of Cawdor Juves fleeing frantically. credit @cardyfreak

Having had the opportunity to speak with Rick Priestley, Andy Chambers, Dave Graham, Anthony Case, and YakTribe's founder David Knife in the first Loaded Dice Table Talks article about the inception, development, and perseverance of Necromunda through the years, I wanted to come back with an article that tapped into the creativity, support, and sharing power of the player base. Where the grit and decay of the setting crept out from the recycling and rubbish bins of inventive terrain builders; where modern miniatures sculptors gave an audience options for characters no longer manufactured by Games Workshop; where hobbyists could showcase the game with social media coverage, battle report videos, and an overall growth in accessibility to skirmish gaming; and where a well balanced blend of great game mechanics can be translated to include other settings within the spectrum of science fiction, it is through the creative interpretations of the fanbase that Necromunda's palpable importance within the genre is best defined.

Where I had once jumped through absurd hoops and followed last ditch attempts through the rabbit holes of the internet to track down some iconic figures in the Necromunda hobby, it was almost by sheer luck that I was able to reach - pretty much all within the same time frame for that matter - Sean Patten of the Ironhands website, Steve Stodden of Mad Robot Miniatures, Ash Barker of Guerrilla Miniature Games, and Joseph McGuire of World's End Publishing, and when each of them happily agreed to be on board, I knew The Loaded Dice Table Talks would someday have a sequel. Admittedly clinging to the back burner for an unimpressive amount of time while the cosmic warp of real life swirled all around it, I'm genuinely happy to be able to bring some more Table Talk to the site for all of the 'Tribe to enjoy. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Table Talks II: Underhive Boogaloo. Shit yeah again, folks. Shit yeah again.